Instincts vs. Second-Guessing Yourself


My name is Jack Russillo and I’m a college freshman who just moved to the big city (Seattle) from a small town in the middle of nowhere. Every day I rate something on a scale of 1 to 100.

Over this last weekend I went to Oregon to visit some friends and hike around a bit. We ended up hiking up a small mountain and not beginning out descent until it was already dark.

Yes — we thought we were lost. Quite lost in fact.

You see, we hiked up the mountain away from any pre-made trails. We were trailblazers, so to speak. But, after hacking our way through the blackberry bushes, we finally got to the top. We didn’t really have the slightest clue on how to get back down; the sun was already beginning to set by the time we were up there.

We knew that there was a service road and a BMX bike trail that went from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Unfortunately, we had a good amount of trouble even finding one of these trails, let alone one that was going in the direction we needed to go.

Finally, however, we found a BMX trail that appeared to lead us to where we wanted to go. So we started our descent down the mountain. Soon into our trek on the bike trail, we noticed that the trail was heading further and further away from where we needed to go. The sun was almost gone by now. We needed to hustle, and we knew it.

So, against our first instincts, we turned around and followed the trail back to a crossroads of other trails we had seen before. After exploring these news trails, we discovered the same thing to be true: they were going in the wrong direction.

Any sunlight that was left when we turned around was gone by now. It was getting to be quite dark. My friends and I were stuck on the top of a mountain in the middle of Oregon with no clue on how to get back down to civilization. I admit I was pretty worried.

After discussing our plan of action, we decided it’d be best to return down the original trail — the BMX bike trail — and hope for the best. At least it could get us down the mountain, right?

Well, after using up most of my phone battery to illuminate the trail, we finally made it to the bottom. And, we were quite giddy when we realized that the trail took us right to where we needed to go, the parking lot with our ride home waiting for us.

I came out of this experience having learned a lesson: go with your instincts.

Many years of evolution have prepared us for our lives today. Just like animals, we retain experiences from our past lives and relatives. These instincts help us survive in the wild and make other decisions about our lives. They’re tested through the years and improve with every new generation. After this hike, I realized that I need to go with my first thought or reaction in order to do my best work.

If we had continued down the first trail instead of turning around, we would’ve been at the bottom of the mountain at least an hour earlier. If I hadn’t second-guessed myself on my last midterm, I probably would’ve earned a better grade. The list goes on…

We have instincts for a reason. They’re usually the right decision and can help us get out of sticky predicaments. On the other hand, second-guessing yourself will usually lead to a wrong decision. While it is good to evaluate the choices you’ve made and think about them more, it can also be very misleading. It can often lead us to over-evaluating ourselves and choosing an answer that seems right, but isn’t.

So, from now on, if there’s ever a dispute between my instincts and a second guess, I’m going to side with my instincts. I mean, hundreds of years of experiences should come in handy eventually, right?

Instincts win.

Jack’s Rating: 68/100

Pro: My ancestors probably made a few mistakes in their day, and the instincts that I’ve inherited from them will help me not make the same ones.

Con: If my first reaction to something is incorrect and I don’t reevaluate, I could be in some serious doodoo.

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